Times have changed! Mothers’ having primary custody of the children is not always the accepted social presumption as in the past. Courts, legislatures and juries are becoming more aware of the vital necessity of father’s being involved in the lives of their children. Children with positive father involvement have fewer behavior problems, higher levels of sociability, and perform better in school.
Recent research suggests that father involvement is essential to a child’s social, moral, and physical growth during the adolescent period. A father’s involvement during pregnancy affects multiple areas of child development and family well- being, from prenatal care, to the likelihood that the father will provide ongoing financial and emotional support. This body of research is gaining momentum. Local and regional governmental agencies are focusing more and more on parental father involvement in the lives of children.
As a result of the continuing evolution of fathers’ rights, Courts are now recognizing a father’s ability to care for his children as an equal to that of the mother. Starting out on an equal plane, the Court may look to which parent is more stable, has a superior income, has a parenting plan in place for the child and is capable of providing proper child care and spending more quality time with the child.
As a father, how can you increase your chances of getting child custody in Texas? You must be a good father and spend time with your children by involving yourself in their daily lives. You need to be responsible and reliable to the needs of your kids. Know and participate in all aspects of their lives. This includes school activities, doctor’s appointments, extracurricular events and getting to know and bonding with their friends.
Reflect on your own personal experiences as a child growing up and think about what was really important to you and your parent’s interaction during that period.
If a father voluntarily gives up rights to his children based on prejudices of the past in the Court system, he will feed a mother’s confidence and sponsor unnecessary ongoing litigation. The number one mistake made by fathers in the court system today is a failure to take the time to learn how the system works. Failing to learn how the family law system works may doom your case. Once you have learned the ins and outs of the family law system you will need to form a viable plan, set goals and never relent in enforcing your rights as a father.
Five of the biggest mistakes men make in a legal action are: 1) failing to respond to the legal action itself; 2) obtaining incorrect legal advice (from friends and family rather than a legal expert); 3) signing a settlement agreement that is not in agreement with and later deeply regretting it; 4) failing to perform under the actual settlement agreement signed; and 5) getting frustrated and/or acquiescing to unreasonable demands and orders.
Some of the things you may want to consider as you prepare for the custody battle are as follows:
- Who has the financial ability to best care for the child(ren)? Be sure to have income tax verification, W-2 Forms and other financial information available.
- Form a parenting plan (child care, after school care, transportation, pediatrician, etc.).
- Who is more stable and/or can provide the best home for the child (ren)?
- Where has the child (ren) been attending school? Is it possible to keep the child in the same school district?
- Prepare a chronology of events leading up to the divorce including treatment of the child(ren), time spent with the child(ren), activities with the child(ren), the child(ren)’s schedule.
- Consider if a home study should be prepared regarding each home of the child.
- Consider whether a psychological evaluation should be done on the mother?
- Is drug testing necessary? (Be sure to request hair follicle drug testing.)
- Is there an alcohol or other addiction problem in the home?
- Who can provide the best moral upbringing for the children?
- Is there evidence such as pictures, video tapes, etc. that may help your case?
- Avoid unnecessary compromising photos or data on Facebook or other social networking sites.
List any other relevant issues you feel may be important to your child custody case before you meet with an attorney about your rights as a father.
Now is the time to review your Holiday Schedule for visitation with your children during this wonderful time of year! We suggest you review the specific circumstances provisions of your order concerning visitation. Because many families have specific situations that occur during this special time, this visitation time is the most modified area in the Standard Possession Order. The Holiday schedule will always override the Thursday or Weekend schedules.
Here is a reminder of the current Texas Family Law Code’s Standard Possession Order for the Holidays.
Texas Family Law Code’s Standard Visitation Guidelines for Thanksgiving:
The possessory conservator or non-primary conservator shall have possession of the child in odd-numbered years, beginning at 6 p.m. on the day the child is dismissed from school before Thanksgiving and ending at 6 p.m. on the following Sunday, and the managing conservator shall have possession for the same period in even-numbered years;
Texas Family Law Code’s Standard Visitation Guidelines for Christmas Break:
The possessory conservator or non-primary conservator shall have possession of the child in even-numbered years beginning at 6 p.m. on the day the child is dismissed from school for the Christmas school vacation and ending at noon on December 28, and the managing conservator shall have possession for the same period in odd-numbered years;
The possessory conservator or non-primary conservator shall have possession of the child in odd-numbered years beginning at noon on December 28 and ending at 6 p.m. on the day before school resumes after that vacation, and the managing conservator shall have possession for the same period in even-numbered years;
The Holiday Season should be a happy time for but for families split by divorce, the emotional issues from the result of the break-up on the affected family can cause the joy of the season to be overshadowed by unhappiness and despair!
Unfortunately, many parents, wait too long to confirm visitation plans for the upcoming holiday season, resulting in an unfortunate and a very unhappy family situation. If you cannot reach an agreement regarding visitation or you believe you may be deprived of holiday visitation by the other parent, now is the time to contact an attorney.
Children need to have structure in their Holiday Visitation schedule to ensure that they will be able to see both parents and share the joy of the season with their entire family. The children are often the ones who suffer when the Holiday Visitation arrangement goes awry.
The best gift of the holiday a child can experience is an early proactive arrangement of all holiday plans so everyone knows dates and times for visitation with both Mom and Dad. This Holiday Season vow to keep your child out of the middle of any family conflict and start to develop new holiday traditions with your child and family. Many parents have new relationships/marriages and other children in the family group. The new holiday traditions should include everyone and be a bonding experience for years to come.
Tips on Dealing with Holiday Visitation Issues
- Make sure your children have positive holiday memories. Shield them from conflicts between warring ex-spouses.
- Plan ahead now on scheduling the upcoming holiday visitations. The longer the wait, the more stress involved!
- If there is a deviation in the holiday schedule this year, make sure it is, in advance, in writing. Make sure the document shows what times are being exchanged and both parents sign it for future confirmation.
- Stay flexible and compromise: If you have to work, consider having the kids spend more time with the other parent so they have time with friends. This is a time for new family traditions and changes from old habits. Put aside your differences with the other parent and make the children’s time happy with good memories.
- If age appropriate, ask your children what is important to them during the holidays. There may be a special place or event that is very important to them; try to accommodate this.
- Enjoy the Holidays with your children. This is a special time for wonderful bonding and beautiful memories. Do not undermine their holiday by hateful confrontations and fighting.
- If you anticipate a problem could arise regarding holiday visitation schedules, don’t delay! Consult a legal expert in time to get the conflict resolved before the holidays commence!
When the custodial parent of a child dies, in the state of Texas, not only is the child and family union devastated, but now is presented the difficult issue of who will become the child’s guardian. Who are the possible candidates that may be legal guardians?
- Non- Custodial parent, if paternity is acknowledged
- Other relatives
- Godparents, Family friends, Neighbors
- State Foster System
Usually, the surviving non-custodial parent will have an automatic right to custody of the child. Texas law favors a child having a solid relationship with both parents and in the event of death, the living parent will take over permanent exclusive custody of the child. What factors should be considered in the child’s best interest that could determine custody by the surviving parent if he/she is not appropriate for the child?
- Did the court, after the divorce, terminate your parental rights in a legal proceeding? If the non- custodial parent had legally been terminated of his/her parental rights this is binding and the terminated parent WOULD NOT be granted permanent custody of the child.
- What if the custodial parent remarried and the new stepparent legally adopted the child? If the child was legally adopted by the stepparent and the non-custodial parent had waived their parental rights, the stepparent would be granted permanent custody of the child.
- What if the non-custodial parent has acknowledged parentage, but paternity has not been established? To be entitled to custody of the child, the father would first claim parental rights through paternity testing to determine if he is the biological father of the child or if he has signed the child’s birth certificate. After Paternity is established, a separate legal proceeding may need to be initiated to override the terms of the mother’s will.
- What if the Custodial Parent created a will that stated the grandparents/godparents would take over as the legal Guardians of the child in the event of death? Many parents will request a particular person or group, such as grandparents, relatives, or godparents to become guardians for their minor children in the case of their demise, but a child is not a piece of property to give away to others when the other biological parent is living. The judge will view what is in the best interest of the child and will always first look at the surviving parent. If this parent meets basic standards the child will live with this parent. If the surviving parent cannot serve the child’s best interest, then the judge will consider the guardian designated in the deceased parent will.
Nacol Law Firm P.C.
Many professions create impositions on conservators making a standard possession order inapplicable and unworkable. The Court may deviate from a standard possession order if the order is inappropriate or unworkable in reference to the schedules of both the conservators and the child. Unique professions and irregular school schedules for children allow the Court to have flexibility to deviate from a standard possession order that is in the Best Interest of the Child. There are multiple ways in which the Court may depart from a standard possession order to fulfill the needs of all parties involved with the custody of the child.
First, the Family Code § 153.254 states that the Court will be allowed deference to modify the standard possession order if work schedules of either conservators or the school schedule of the child is irregular. The Court must attempt to narrowly tailor the modifications to keep the new possession order as similar to the standard possession order as possible. This instance most commonly occurs when the Managing Conservator and the Possessory Conservator cannot reach an agreement and one of the two Conservators has a unique profession such as a firefighter, police officer, or airline pilot. The working hours of these jobs allow the Court to modify the standard possession order even if both of the parties do not comply with the changes. The modifications must be made only if it is in the Best Interest of the Child.
Secondly, the standard possession order may always be modified if it is by the mutual agreement of both the Managing Conservator and Possessory Conservator. Family Code § 153.007 is the Agreed Parenting Plan Statute and allows for both parties to agree on a standard possession order for the child. This statute was passed to promote amicability in settlement for child custody issues and to give flexibility to the parents if they are willing to agree on custody terms. The Agreed Parenting Plan must be in the Best Interest of the Child for the Court to approve. If the Court grants the Agreed Parenting Plan then the Managing or Possessory Conservator will have a remedy as a matter of law for any violation of the agreement committed by either party.
Finally, both Conservators may enter into a Mediated Settlement Agreement under Family Code § 153.0071. A Mediated Settlement Agreement is the only time in which the Court will NOT look at the Best Interest of the Child when granting the custody agreement.
The Mediated Settlement Agreement § 153.0071 must be:
- In bold, underlined, and capital letters that the agreement is NOT REVOCABLE
- Signed by Both Parties to the agreement
- Signed by the lawyers (if represented) of each party
The Mediated Settlement Agreement is binding and not revocable so if the Conservators wish to go this route they must understand that what is in the agreement will be held as binding. This method can be used to modify or change a standard possession order and the Court will not look at the Best Interest of the Child regarding the agreement, unless there exists a credible threat of domestic violence.
These are the methods in which a unique possession order may be obtained to accommodate irregular schedules or working hours of both the conservators. Any possession order must be correctly drafted and all future contingencies must be accounted for. An experienced lawyer must be contacted to safeguard an individual’s custody rights of their children and to make sure that a fair custody arrangement is obtained.
It has now been more than 20 years since child psychiatrist, Richard A. Gardner, introduced the term of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). Dr. Gardner defined PAS as a disorder that arises in divorce or child custody disputes, when one parent deliberately damages, or destroys the previously healthy and loving relationship between the child and the child’s other parent. The main manifestation is the child’s own sudden or atypical campaign of denigration against the targeted parent without any justification.
Parental Alienation Syndrome is an evil, yet common and effective device for gaining custody of a child. Through systematic alienation, the alienating parent may slowly brainwash a child against the targeted parent. The alienating parent involved in these abusive behaviors usually gains misplaced and deleterious loyalty of the child.
The main problem with PAS is that the child actually participates in the denigrating of the alienated parent.
The main areas of denigration from the child are:
- The child supports and tries to protect the alienating parent.
- The child express the ideas of denigration of the target parent as his/her own idea.
- The child gives weak and absurd reasons for his/her anger towards the alienated parent.
- The child uses situations and scenarios that he/she could not have experienced
- The child uses foul and often atypical language and server behavior to denigrate the targeted parent.
- The child has no guilt over his/her cruelty towards the alienated parent and expresses hate for the parent.
Children who live in alienated family situations are usually unable to form healthy relationships with either parent.
Main areas of concern for these children impacted by Parental alienation are:
- Aggression and conduct disorder
- Disregard for social norms and authority, adjustment difficulties
- Emotional Distress, Anxiety, Depression, and Self Hate
- Lack of remorse or guilt
- Poor reality testing and unreasonable cognitive operations
- Low self- esteem or inflated self-esteem, Pseudo- maturity
Children displaying some or all of these symptoms need professional and legal help. Parental Alienation Syndrome is sometimes recognized by the courts but is very difficult to define and most cases requires bringing in County Social Services, Child Protective Services, and /or other family therapy professionals.
Your child desperately needs your help, no matter how bad the situation is. IT IS NOT THE TIME TO GIVE UP YOUR PARENTAL RIGHTS! Contact an attorney and discuss your options on how to help your child and moving forward to solve this legal situation.